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Origin Bumblebee

Transformers Buzzworthy Bumblebee
by yo go re

Can't believe it's taken this long for the Bumblebee to get wings.

You've probably heard the buzz, but Bumblebee is kind of a big deal.

Remember when there was a time that Hasbro lost the rights to use the name "Bumblebee" on toys, so we went from the early '90s to 2006 without seeing arguably the most popular character in the franchise? The Beast era, the first Robots in Disguise, the Unicron Trilogy, all of them had kid-appeal characters, but none of them were Bumblbee. Now we're in a position where we've got Buzzworthy Bumblbee, an entire Target-exclusive line that focuses on Bumblebee and a select few allies and enemies. We've come a long way, baby!

The Buzzworthy Bumblebee toys are mostly repaints of existing molds, but there are at least a couple new sculpts in the lineup: one pegwarming "Core Class" figure (aka, Legends scale) packaged with a simple Exo-Suited Spike Witwicky, and now this "Origin" Bumblebee. Despite being a new mold, he's still the classic little yellow robot you know and love. The sculpt is based on art by Ken Christiansen, who's worked on several TF videogames and comics. You can totally make out the Volkswagen details in his kibble, like the roof and windows on his chest, or the front bumper on his feet. Surely that won't become ironic later in the review!

The yellow used for this Bumblebee is much paler than on the last few we've reviewed. There's the usual mismatch between painted areas and molded areas, but it's actually not too bad... in this mode. The limbs are a solid black, and there's light blue on his chest windows. The face is silver, with dark blue eyes.

There is just a ton of kibble on the figure's back and the sides of his legs. It's honestly some of the worst we can remember seeing in quite a while, to the point where it's almost distracting. Fortunately, it doesn't get in the way of the articulation much. Bumblebee moves at the ankles, knees, thighs, hips, waist, elbows, biceps, shoulders, and neck, and the gigantic feet serve to keep him stable in more extreme poses.

His accessories include a laser pistol and a large jetpack. They're both solid black, though the art on the back of the packaging shows them as silver (they're unpaintable plastic, and were being molded with things that had to be black, so just using silver plastic wasn't an option). The sculpt of the pack matches the ones seen in the "Dinobot Island" two-parter, and though it connects to this figure via a 5mm peg, it's also shaped to sit flush against the kibble on the back of Earthrise Cliffjumper. Finally, there's something I initially took to be missiles for a launcher, but are instead inanimate carbon rods "conductors," some kind of Transformer energy source that only ever showed up "More than Meets the Eye, Part 1," the pilot episode. Now why would those be included, I wonder?

Converting Bumblebee is pleasantly complex. Fold down the back kibble and flip out the extra panel, then point the entire thing straight up; fold the robot's chest up over and behind his head; turn the waist around, fold the hands away, then bring the arms in to the middle to click together; pull the feet away from the legs and hinge them to point down; unfold the ankle kibble and flip it up, moving the hidden third piece of ankle kibble into position before tucking the feet up against it; rotate the legs in 90°, then bend the knees to bring the vehicle's body together; finally, finish lifting the robot's old chest into place to finish the hood.

I've said before that the reason most current TFs are boring is that Hasbro's reached the point where they just keep giving us the same stuff over and over. You know what "new" Transformer I saw at Walmart the other day? Rhinox. I've got a Rhinox. Before that? Waspinator and Tracks. I've got those, too. We in no way begrudge Hasbro making sure that being a new fan doesn't mean you've permanently missed out on some characters just because they were released before you got into the hobby, but those aren't toys I need in my collection. This Bumblebee, though? This is something new.

Remember the conductors that only showed up in the cartoon pilot? They were being collected by Wheeljack and Bumblebee, in a scene set on Cybertron before the Autobots decamped to Earth, meaning we got to see their Cybertronian altmodes. This is the first-ever toy of Bumblebee not as car, but as a little flying saucer! Even previous attempts at a pre-Earth 'bee have made him a car, not this cool craft! It has a rounded body that tapers into wings at the side, but still has a distinct, flat, square, "nose" in the front like a car's hood. There's a single translucent blue windshield, and no kind of wheels at all. Which is why it's so silly (and yet cartoon-accurate) for the robot to conspicuously have multiple windows and a VW bumper.

There are three 5mm holes on the top of the vehicle, so the gun and jetpack and plug in. There's still no way for the conductor rods to be held securely, so they really serve the same purpose as Astrotrain's "A.I.R. Lock" junk: an excuse to charge more for the toy, rather than dropping it into a cheaper pricepoint. Designer Mark Maher did try to create tabs on the jetpack to hold them, but opted to cut that idea out in order to keep the pack looking nice. Ehn. On the plus side, if you turn the jetpack upside down and put it under the toy, it does a decent job of making 'bee look like he's hovering.

The Buzzworthy Bumblebee packaging takes its cues from everything else Transformers is doing right now: it's bright yellow, like the Bumblebee movie toys came in, though with art of various incarnations of the character on the side (Cyberverse, Marvel comics, Dreamwave comics), and of course one side is an angle instead of being flat. I swear, someone at Hasbro takes erotic pleasure from angled boxes. Like the Kingdom packaging, this has a small window rather than one covering the entire front of the box; unlike the Kingdom packaging, this one has no plastic in front of the figure, making for even easier recycling. Now that's a win! Even better? They've finally brought back paper twist-ties! A thousand percent better than the plastic bands most companies use for everything now!

Origin Bumblebee is an existing character, yes, but this toy still gives us something we've never had before. And it does it really well! The robot's a little heavy on the kibble, but converting him is fun and the altmode is great. It's a Target exclusive, but it's worth hunting this one down for something new.

-- 11/30/21


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